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25 Essentials to Always Keep in Your Gym Bag

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25 Essentials to Always Keep in Your Gym Bag

If you make it to the gym after a long day, you don’t want to be sidelined by not having everything you need for your workout. It’s hard enough most days to drive there instead of heading home for the couch and Netflix. Limit your excuses by having your bag packed with these goodies.

Keep it in your car so you don’t need to go home first. That way your only mental battle will be deciding between the treadmill and the stair climber.

Keep your gym bag organized and stocked by using each section for a different purpose. Or grab three smaller bags that you can restock easily to keep these essential items handy. The first small bag will hold your workout items, the second is dedicated to repairing any damage you’ve done, and the third holds your shower kit.

Tips for an organized and stocked gym bag


Water Bottle

Nothing will make your workout harder than not drinking enough fluid. That makes your water bottle the most essential item in your entire bag. Working out without enough fluid reduces performance and makes it harder to keep you on top of your mental game.

Keeping hydrated is already a negative sum game. Your body simply can’t absorb fluids as quickly as they’re lost when you’re training hard.

Go green with a custom reusable water bottle with an emblem of your cause and personalize it with your name. Show your support for your favorite team and outfit it with a high-quality built-in straw or sip top for one-handed drinking.

No matter what you choose, look for a model that’s BPA free so you can stay healthy and in the game for a long time. Disposable water bottles are outdated, so modernize with a reliable, refillable, reusable sport bottle.

Custom personalized water bottles

Gym ID Card

When you join a gym, they issue you an ID card. Some days you need it to get in, and some days they just wave anyone in who looks like they know what they’re doing.

Instead of putting it in your wallet where you must dig it out each time, use a self-laminating pouch to turn your gym card into a luggage tag and attach it to the handle of your bag. That way you’re prepared for the new hire who forces everyone to show their ID.

The sturdy laminate cover protects your card on both sides so it won’t get mangled or lost, and you don’t need a fancy machine, since they self-seal. As a bonus, it makes an excellent identification tag for your bag, in case you accidentally leave it lying around.


This padlock won’t keep you safe from the creepy shower floor bacteria in the locker room, but it will keep your stuff secure in the locker while you’re getting your workout in. Stay away from those old-school combination locks with the impossible-to-remember number combination and upgrade to this cool, easy-to-use horizontal combination lock. These new Master Lock “Set your own WORD” combination locks are the real deal.



Music is a good kind of distraction. Listening to the right kind of music will make you less aware of your exertion and can benefit your performance by about 15%.

Make yourself a playlist with songs in the 120-140 beats-per-minute range, or about the same as your heart rate will be during a workout, to keep you going strong. Make a soundtrack for your fitness and crank it up to block out the pain and suffering you’re about to endure.


You can’t listen to those tunes without a decent pair of headphones. They’re a worthy investment in keeping you in the zone, and the ones designed for sports are typically much tougher than their regular siblings. Order a pair of sweat-proof wireless headphones that you only use at the gym, and leave them in your bag so you always know where to find them.

Hand Sanitizer

Most gyms have a dubious “wipe up after yourself” policy to keep the machines dry. Anytime you have that many people sharing hand weights and grabbing the arms of the elliptical, you’ll want to ensure your hands are germ-free before heading out. Keep a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your bag to disinfect your hands as you leave the gym.


Swimmers will tell you, “Not all athletes wear shoes!” There’s no better cardiovascular workout than swimming.

It’s the perfect low-impact activity, and no one has better abdominal muscles than the swimmers! Just look at swimming superstar Michael Phelps for a lesson on how it builds your core. As a bonus, pulling on a swimsuit will always motivate you to work out hard.

Protect your hair by rinsing with clear water before diving in. The clean water will soak in and limit the amount of chlorine that your hair absorbs. Grab a cap and goggles and hit the water.

Swimming pool

Energy Bar

Hitting the wall isn’t just an expression. Once it happens, you won’t forget the feeling. When your body has used every last drop of energy, one more step is as hard as walking through a physical barrier.

Even if you’ve only hit the metaphorical wall, it’s always a good idea to keep a snack in your bag. Try a granola bar, protein bar or something that’s easy to digest while you continue with your workout.


Shoes are probably your most expensive purchase for the gym. While shoes are important, socks can cause just as many workout-related foot problems as the wrong pair of shoes. You need high-quality socks to protect your feet from blisters, sweat and harsh impact.

Your socks shouldn’t just be comfortable, they should lift your spirits, too! Invest in a pair of workout socks that make you smile every time you put them on. Treat yourself to a pair with cushioning on the sole, preferably in an efficient microfiber design that will wick away moisture.

Portable Charger

Your entire workout revolves around your phone. It has the class schedule, your workout log and your music. Without it, you’ll be stuck watching CNN on the gym TV. Find an attractive, sleek, lightweight portable charger for your bag that you wouldn’t mind setting on the treadmill next to your phone when you need a little boost.

Portable charger


When it comes to pulling your hair into a ponytail or man bun, be picky about your hair accessories. You’ll want a gentler elastic for working out than the average type. If you have shorter hair, use a headband made from moisture-wicking fabrics so your roots don’t get oily.

Chamois Towel

Replace your raggedy gym towel with a smart chamois sports towel. They’re ultra-absorbent, immediately reusable after wringing out and made of super-soft fabric. They come in multiple sizes and colors, so buy a few so you can always have a fresh one in your bag.



Your sweat isn’t stinky, at least, not by itself. The smell is manufactured by bacteria on your skin as they break down your sweat.

Deodorants have been around since 1888 to help make us all smell better. Whether pink or blue, most deodorants have the same active ingredients, just different fragrances. Pack your favorite scent in your bag for a quick touch-up before you leave the gym.


ToothbrushWe all think we couldn’t live without our cell phones, but Americans agree that the toothbrush is their most coveted item. This simple tool, as we know it today, was invented in the 15th century, but it still ranks above all the cool gadgets as the most important item. Pack a travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste in your bag so you’ll never be without these indispensable items.


Wipes aren’t just for babies and makeup. Have a small pack of wipes in your bag to give your face, pits or any other region a quick clean up on those days you don’t feel like stripping down completely in the locker room. If your street cred is a factor, try out these Dude Wipes to stay cool.

Remember to try not to flush them, even if the label says it’s safe. Wipes have been blamed for some pretty awful sewer backups lately in the news, and we all want to be eco-friendly.

Pocket First Aid Kit

Don’t get caught in a scrape without the basics. Keep a small kit with a few bandages, antibacterial ointment and an instant cold pack in your bag to help you deal with scratches, blisters, cuts or a minor injury.

Lip Balm

The skin on your lips is thinner than that on your face. Your lips naturally produce moisturizer, but a vigorous workout can leave your lips feeling dry and chapped. Lip balm typically works by protecting your lips with a thin layer of a wax-like substance that helps seal in your natural moisture.

Any lip balm will do. Find one in a color and scent that you like and drop it in your bag so it’s there when you need it.

Nail Clippers or a File

Few things are more distracting than having a broken nail or hangnail that catches on everything. But nail clippers aren’t just for nails. They can substitute for scissors in a pinch, clipping off that stray piece of thread on your clothing.

They’re also surprisingly sturdy and sharp enough to snip off a tag or open a blister-pack medicine. Get a decent quality pair with a sharp beak and keep them around for emergencies.

Nail clippers quote

Dry Shampoo

You don’t need water to repair your hairdo after a quick trip to the gym. Try a dry shampoo to magically absorb oil and fluff your strands without leaving a gummy residue.

It will transform your post-workout hair into shiny perfection. Apply it before your workout to keep your hair from going flat.



You don’t have to shampoo every day, but you should rinse your scalp to help clean it. Excess sweat can weaken your hair strands and give off an odor. Pack a travel-size bottle of shampoo and a high-quality leave-in conditioner for those days when you need a full shower.


Exfoliation is great for sloughing off dead skin cells and preventing breakouts from pores clogged with sweat and oils. Lightly exfoliate, then layer a lightweight moisturizer on top to keep your skin hydrated if you’re headed home after the gym. Or grab a BB cream with a light tint if you still have errands to run.


Flip Flops

If you’re getting in the shower at the gym or wandering the floors of the locker room, invest in a cheap pair of flip flops or waterproof sandals to protect your feet from the strains of mold, algae and fungi that can grow on damp floors. Athlete’s foot isn’t life-threatening, but the cracked, itchy skin that it causes between your toes can make you miserable. A pair of shower shoes will help you avoid it.

Hairbrush for Wet Hair /Tangle Teaser

Limit the weight of your bag by using a wet brush or shower comb instead of bringing all your styling tools. Detangle your hair after your shower gently to avoid breaking strands. Flip your head upside-down and use the hand dryer mounted on the wall to give your hair extra body and keep you from dripping on the way home.

Icy Hot

Menthol and methyl salicylate are the main ingredients in any “pain relief ointment.” They are known as counterirritants, meaning they cause your skin to feel cool and then warm. These feelings help distract you from feeling your aches and pains. It will be welcome on a day when you’ve overdone your legs and need a little relief.

Workout Log

Your Fitbit does an excellent job tracking what you’ve done, but no one ever succeeded without setting goals and then smashing them. A workout log will help you create a complete and realistic plan for achieving your fitness goals, and help you evaluate results. Use a workout log to have the best chance at being successful.

Workout log

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